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Infographics in corporate sustainability reports: providing useful information or used for impression management?
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 23:12 authored by Majid Kanbaty
Infographics combine visual and textual information and thus may be used to attract attention, with the ultimate purpose of influencing the thoughts and feelings of readers of accounting information. However, little is known about the role of infographics in sustainability reports. This study examines the practice and features of infographics in sustainability reports, particularly focusing on whether infographics are used for impression management (IM) purposes by utilising selectivity, visual manipulation and performance comparisons. As infographics become more widely used, it is important to understand their use in corporate sustainability reporting (CSR), particularly because their use is not regulated. Additionally, the association between IM and sustainability disclosure is scrutinised. The findings reveal that infographics are becoming increasingly utilised in CSR and that they are commonly used by environmentally sensitive industries. The key social and environmental aspects depicted by infographics are air emissions, energy usage, water consumption, labour practices and decent work. We find clear evidence of infographics being harnessed for IM purposes and that there is a bias in selecting, comparing and emphasising sustainability performance trends towards favourable disclosures that enhance company reputation. Further, we find evidence of an association between IM and social disclosure in relation to selectivity and visual emphasis strategies but the association with environmental disclosure is only found for selectivity and performance comparison strategies.